Monday, September 24, 2018

Will Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Choices?

New provisions to Medicare Advantage might endanger some patients
A large portion of the population is aging out of private health care and into Medicare coverage, and with that shift comes a growing enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans. Coverage for Medicare Advantage plans comes through private companies approved by Medicare.

Also called “Part C” or “MA Plans,” a Medicare Advantage Plan offers coverage for all of your Hospital Insurance (Medicare Part A) and Medical Insurance (Medicare Part B). A Medicare Advantage Plan covers everything Original Medicare would, with the exception of hospice.

In recent weeks, the freedoms available under Medicare Advantage for the next year have fallen under speculation.

Will Medicare Advantage Plans Cut Choices?

The short answer is yes. Benefits Pro just reported that starting next year, a Medicare Advantage Plan can start adding restrictions to injectable drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, macular degeneration, cancer, and other serious illnesses.

The concern is that these restrictions might enable private Medicare insurance plans to try cheaper versions of drugs before they’re allowed to use the ones their physicians are prescribing.

The Disadvantage to Medicare Advantage

Speculation has been raised that elderly and more infirm patients might be endangered under these new restrictions. Depending on the patient’s condition, being unable to immediately seek their doctor’s first choice in prescription drugs could be the difference between life and death.

These constrictive stipulations are part of the current administration’s attempt to deliver on promises of lower drug prices. And while the Medicare Advantage Plan patients are certainly being offered cheaper drugs, these Medicare Advantage restrictions create a grey area. There is currently no threshold to determine when the cheaper-tier drugs are deemed “ineffective” and patients can being pursuing their doctor’s initial prescription.

The Path Forward

Benefits Pro reports that Federal health officials told insurance providers last month that they were cleared to substitute a less expensive Part B drug to treat a medical condition the FDA has not approved it for so long as it could be documented that the drug was safe and effective.

Patients that do not want to risk trying the cheaper drug first have two options: an appeal, or an exemption, although their physician’s support is needed to continue. The physician will need to explain the situation to the insurers and provide heavily detailed documentation as to why their patient needs to have the more expensive, top-tier drugs. The insurance plans then have 24-72 hours to respond to these appeals and exemption requests. You read a more detailed description of the appeals process here.

If non-Medicare health insurance is weighing on your mind after these developments, then we have good news. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting is certified to help you ease the burden of distributing your 1094 and 1095 forms! Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Friday, September 21, 2018

How To Easily Make Your Work From Home Policies Effective

Studies show that employees that work from home tend to save employers money, have increased productivity, and give most employees the flexibility that they desire. As with any type of employment, those who do remote work should have policies, expectations, and guidelines in place to ensure they adequately perform their job. With remote work becoming more popular, especially in specific fields, it is important to know how to easily make your work from home policies effective.

Are your company's work from home policies effective?

How To Easily Make Your Work From Home Policies Effective

Set Guidelines

While work from home jobs have policies that vary, all employees should know when it is okay for them to work remote and when they should be in the office. Vague policies lead to unnecessary friction and confusion. Take time to think about and analyze various scenarios that you would and would not allow remote work employees to complete their jobs from home. Make these scenarios very clear and put them in writing so all parties understand what is expected.

Make Your Expectations Known

Many companies never reach their full potential because they rarely communicate their expectations to employees clearly. Clear and direct expectations are vital to the success of work from home jobs. Here are some things you should assess:
  • Are employees that do remote work required to “clock-in” or begin work at a specific time?
  • Is it a requirement to respond to messages, emails, and voicemails by a certain time?
  • Should breaks or lunch times be reported?
  • Do remote work employees need to virtually attend meetings?
Have the answers to these questions prior to hiring a candidate for remote work. These questions may also arise during an interview, so it always good to be prepared!

Be Positive

When running a team with individuals that work from home or in the office, be mindful of what you say and keep a positive attitude. The slightest remark with a negative connotation regarding those that work remotely can cause division between your team, especially those that do not have the option to work from home.

To avoid this type of discord to arise within your company, take a few moments to educate all employees on remote work facts and the employment benefits and cons that come with it. Clarity and understanding go a long way!

Protect Your Work From Home Policies

As you continue to grow your company both in-house and remotely, be sure to have an ACA compliance and reporting solution in place to handle your tax needs as they arise. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to help you with efficient 1094 and 1095 distribution. To learn more about ACAwise, schedule an appointment today!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Are Your Parental Leave Benefits Competitive Enough?

Industry leaders are starting to mandate better paid parental leave
With industry leaders starting to offer competitive employee benefits ––paid parental leave chief among them––this is your chance to get ahead of the curve. Paid parental leave is wading into the employee benefits pool, but will you be ready for when it makes a splash?

Employee Benefits: Paid Parental Leave

Before we dive into how paid parental leave is starting to shake up the employee benefits sector, here’s a primer. Paid parental leave is considered time taken off by new-parent employees to welcome a child through either adoption or birth. Paid parental leave does not involve an employee’s PTO, sick, or personal leave, but those stores can certainly be dipped into to supplement the parental leave period.

Some key differences between paid parental leave and maternity leave or paternity leave: American paternity leave is often restricted to the arrival of a biological child. Similarly, maternity leave in the United States is often for biological mothers only, to be taken when delivering and caring for the baby.

According to BenefitsPro, Only 13 percent of private-sector workers in the U.S. receive paid parental leave.

The State of Paid Parental Leave

Quite literally, whether or not your company offers parental leave as part of their employee benefits package can depend on the state in which your company operates. California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are currently the only states that mandate paid parental leave.

However, there has been employee benefits activity at the city level. Cities like St. Paul, MN. and San Francisco, CA, among others, have their own paid parental leave policies.

Turning the Tide of Employee Benefits

Companies like Microsoft are placing mandates on subcontractors, stating at the close of August that they would only offer contracts to companies with a three-month paid parental leave policy that provides the person on maternity leave or paternity leave with up to $1,000 a week. The software leader plans to roll out this paid parental leave policy over the course of the next year.

And Microsoft is far from alone. Just last week, Glassdoor assembled a slideshow of the 15 American companies with the best parental leave policies among them Spotify, Twitter, and Johnson & Johnson.

It may be worth examining the paid parental leave path being blazed by industry leaders. As we approach an era where employees are beginning to feel heard, and the talent pool has the privilege to weigh their options more, it could hurt your company if you do not offer competitive employee benefits. Paid parental leave can take a while to roll out, so if you take notice now, you could be in the sweet spot to start offering competitive employee benefits in a few years.

Regardless of the benefits you offer, you’re still responsible for your employees’ ACA reporting. But you don’t have to shoulder all that paperwork alone–– or at all. ACAwise is a full-service ACA reporting solution. We are IRS-authorized and designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Monday, September 17, 2018

Behavioral Interview Questions and How To Get Great Talent

Behavioral interview questions narrow down candidates
The process of finding new talent to build your company’s team is easier than ever with the help of the internet and social media. With just one or two job postings on the right platform, you can attract hundreds, if not thousands, of applicants ready to schedule an interview. But how do you find the true gems during that influx of applicants? Simple: behavioral interview questions.

You’ve had your fair share of interviews by now, but while you can certainly fall back on your experience don’t let that be your sole skill during the interview process. Interview preparation is not just for the interviewee. You need to know what you’re looking for, and behavioral interview questions offer you a somewhat subtle way to make sure the person sitting before you truly has the tools you’ll both need to succeed. 

Behavioral Interview Questions and How To Get Great Talent

Although it is difficult to learn everything about someone in one interview, behavioral interview questions give you a closer look at the applicant and how well they would fit into your company’s work culture and environment. Just like those that apply, the interviewer must devote some time to interview preparation in order to ask the right interview questions.
Choosing the Right Questions

The first step in choosing the right behavioral interview questions to ask is to determine what behaviors you are looking for. Typically, the best behaviors to see in new employees include: 

Effective Communication
Time Management Skills

Once you have selected the type of behavior(s) you are seeking, draft several interview questions that reflect these behaviors and alternate between interviews. 

Sample Behavioral Interview Questions

Tell me about a business or academic situation that you felt being honest was inappropriate. Why did you feel it was inappropriate and what did you do in that situation?
Share with me an example of a time when you had to explain something fairly complex to a frustrated client. How did you handle this situation?
Give me an example of a time where you had to manage multiple projects/assignments at once? What steps did you take to handle this type of workload?
Tell me about a time where you worked under very close or very loose supervision. How did you handle that?

Tip: Listen closely to each response and take notes. Also, be mindful of applicants that respond with vague answers, generalized responses, repeat examples, or tend to use the word “we.”
Bonus Tip: Topics to Avoid During an Interview

We want you to build the perfect team for your company, and part of that is putting your best foot forward even though technically you’re not the one who needs to be impressive. Here are some general interview tips on topics to avoid while interviewing an applicant: 

Arrest record
Current/past salary
Irrelevant questions to job
Marital status/family
Military background (unless the experience is job-related)
Sexual orientation

Using behavioral interview questions narrows the candidate pool

Build Your Team With The Right Applicants

Behavioral interview questions make a difference in your search for new talent. Whether you are new to the hiring/interview process or just want to improve your interview techniques, hopefully, you can use these interview tips to benefit you for years to come.

Now that you have more of a lock on interview preparation, what about tax preparation?––more specifically, ACA reporting. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.
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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What To Do If Your Business Is In The Hurricane Florence Path

How to protect your inland business from Hurricane Florence
Disclaimer: This blog is not for the people on the coast who should have evacuated or hunkered down by now. This is for those of you on the edges of Hurricane Florence who might have questions about how to safeguard your business when it comes to preparing for a hurricane while in the path but not on the coast.

Weather reports are calling for heavy rains and winds in the projected inland sections of the Hurricane Florence path. This means that you will need to prepare for flooding, power outages, and possible infrastructure failure.

Tips for Preparing for a Hurricane

Plan for the worst. Not apocalypse-level, but you don’t want to come out on the other side of Hurricane Florence wishing you had done more to prepare. This hurricane preparation primer is aimed at making sure Hurricane Florence doesn’t destroy your business, but the following is by no means a comprehensive guide.

Protect Your Files From Hurricane Florence

The Digital Age is not waterproof. Floods could invade your office, or the roof could falter and let water in. If your company’s important paperwork (payroll, HR, production documents, photos, etc) are stored somewhere cloud-based, double check to make sure there are no sensitive files that exist solely on one person’s desktop. Encourage your employees to make a Hurricane File on a shared cloud drive if they have any crucial data they don’t have time to back up properly. They can encrypt it if it’s not meant for everyone to see; the main point is to ensure that access to the information is not lost forever if the office floods.

If your company is not cloud-based, back everything up in multiple places. Since you’re in a time-crunch, have your employees use their best judgment as to what is crucial. Unless you have a list of important documents that everyone needs to back up, tell them to save anything a new hire in their position would need to do their job effectively.

Ideally, you have a couple external hard drives in your possession people can back up to, but if not there are thumb drives and email. You want to have every important document available in at least two places, whether that is floating around your Gmail or saved to a bag full of thumb drives.

Protip: Do not store valuable papers in any office dishwashers. Just because office dishwashers keep water in does not mean they can keep water out.

Hurricane Prep List: Office Food

If you have a refrigerator in your office you can do three things about all the food that will be in there unattended during Hurricane Florence: you can eat it all, throw it out, or use the penny-cup trick

The penny-cup trick takes a day to take effect, and will determine if the food in your refrigerator is edible once you return to the office following Hurricane Florence. Fill a mid-size cup (like the disposable kind used at parties) to the top with water, and freeze it overnight. Once the water is frozen, place a penny on top of the ice. Put the cup back in the freezer during the storm. Once you return, check to see how far below the top of the ice the penny now is––if you lost power, the ice would have thawed and the penny would have sunk. If the penny is still at or near enough to the top, the food in your office freezer and fridge should still be viable.

What you can do to minimize Hurricane Florence's damage to your business

Take Pictures of Your Valuables

Having insurance is a good start, but with such a high volume of people also making insurance claims after the storm it helps to have proof of what you owned. Document your possession of printers, supplies, and any technology. Get serial numbers if you can. 

Seek High Ground

If you have company vehicles that are not in use every day, check your local listings about parking garages that are open to the public. Park your vehicles there if you can. If you have employees who live on a hill, ask if they’d be willing to host a company car in exchange for a small bonus.

Seek high ground for what is inside of your business as well. As a last-ditch effort to preserve valuable documents or other important items, wrap them in plastic or a few layers of coats from the Lost and Found, and then store them on the middle or mid-top shelf of a closet. This way, they have extra insulation from potential floodwaters.

Hopefully, this primer has provided you with a few tools you can use to prepare your business for Hurricane Florence. Once the storm settles, we hope we can give you other tools as well––the tools to handle your ACA reporting for 2018. We provide full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Monday, September 10, 2018

DOJ Warns Of Health Insurance Chaos Without Obamacare

Health insurance markets could be in upheaval if the ACA is shelved before January
Last week, Texas vs. The United States, the court case centered around the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, hit the courtroom. The first thing to be decided during the litigation of Texas vs. The United States is whether or not the Affordable Care Act should be put on hold the entirety of this legal battle. According to BenefitsPro, on Wednesday the federal government warned that such an immediate and nationwide halt of Obamacare could trigger “chaos” when it comes to the insurance market.

Health Insurance Chaos Without Obamacare?

The state of Texas and the attorneys general representing the interests of the GOP have requested that the Affordable Care Act be blocked as soon as possible, while the Justice Department wants to postpone the effect of that court order until after Jan. 1, around the time the provision penalizing people for not having health insurance is phased out.

The Merits of Insurance Market Stasis

Leaving the Affordable Care Act intact through the end of 2018 does not sit well with GOP plaintiffs, who believe that people will want to make insurance decisions during the coming fall open-enrollment periods. The Democrats litigating on behalf of Obamacare say that the law has too many factors at play in the insurance market, Medicare, and Medicaid to be disbanded now.

Impending Health Insurance Chaos

The federal government announced in June that it did not plan to defend Obamacare, but that doesn’t mean that there are not some benefits to keeping the law around a little longer. On Wednesday, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate told Texas vs. United States’ presiding U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor that blocking Obamacare before January would “cause chaos in the insurance market.”

The Future Of The Health Insurance Market

Politico reports that Judge O'Connor noted Wednesday that in upholding the constitutionality of Obamacare, Supreme Court justices often assumed that the individual mandate and the insurance protections of Obamacare were inseparable. With the individual mandate gone, there is no guarantee that the Affordable Care Act will be upheld again.

Until there’s a ruling, ACA reporting should still be a going concern. If you need someone to handle your 1094 and 1095s, look no further than ACAwise. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Why Today Is a Big Day For Obamacare

Wednesday is a big day in the Texas vs. United States ACA case
Today is a big day for the Affordable Care Act. In a Fort Worth, Texas courtroom, attorney generals from both sides of the aisle are going to duke out whether or not the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.

Why Today Is a Big Day For Obamacare

In this case, known officially as Texas vs. The United States, the Republicans plan to argue that after Congress eliminated the penalty for not having health insurance last year, entire health law is now unconstitutional. The Democrats will prepare the counterargument describing the Affordable Care Act’s solid legality.

The GOP believes that since the Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012 by citing the requirement to carry insurance was a legitimate use of taxing power wielded by Congress, the fact that there is no longer a penalty for not having health insurance renders Obamacare unconstitutional.

The Outlook on The Future of Obamacare

According to BenefitsPro, while the Justice Department does not wholly agree with the GOP plaintiffs about the removal of the penalty nullifying the whole law, it does believe that without the penalty, the part of Obamacare that requires insurance companies to 1) still offer health care coverage to people with preexisting conditions and 2) not upcharge people with preexisting conditions when they do sell them health care might need to go.

The GOP seems willing to accept the elimination of the protections safeguarding preexisting conditions as a compromise if the whole of the Affordable Care Act cannot be struck down. Should the court vote in favor of removing the preexisting conditions protection, changes would take effect on Jan. 1, 2019, when the penalty disappears.

Progress will be made today on the Affordable Care Act case TX vs. USWhy Wednesday Is a Big Deal For The Affordable Care Act

Today is important in the case of Texas vs. The US because the two sides will argue whether or not the Affordable Care Act should be put on hold the entire time this case is in court. 

The GOP plaintiffs are asking a “preliminary injunction” on the law, stating in their brief that people will want to make insurance decisions during fall open-enrollment periods, and also that the turnaround on state insurance plans/ Medicaid operations is slow, so the process should start sooner rather than later. 

Democrats are combatting this ideology by stating that pausing the Affordable Care Act during litigation would cause utter chaos, given the arms Obamacare has in both individual and employer insurance markets, Medicare, and Medicaid.

We will update this blog with the verdict as soon as one is available. While the Affordable Care Act is on your mind, have you thought about how you’re going to handle this year’s reporting? If you’re starting to stress, let ACAwise take it off your hands. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms where they need to go with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Monday, August 27, 2018

The Affordable Care Act Isn't Dead, So You Need To Know These 3 Things

Affordable Care Act requirements are still alive and well for 2019
The Affordable Care Act might have sustained a few hits since it was known as Obamacare, but it is far from dead. Enough of the ACA remains intact for 2018 that you can still run up some serious penalties if you are not paying attention, so we prepared this primer on what you need to be aware of since the Affordable Care Act isn’t dead.

Since The Affordable Care Act Isn’t Dead, Know This:

Reporting Requirements For The Affordable Care Act Still Exist

The 1094-C and 1095-C are still a going concern, and not just because the IRS uses what’s on the 1095-C to determine if you’re going to get penalized. Large employers (typically considered as having 50 or more employees) are required to file 1095-C forms every year to send to their employees and the IRS.

These forms make record of the company’s ACA compliance: did you offer health care? Did the employee take it? The forms need to make their way to the IRS by April 1 of 2019, and the IRS can slap you with a penalty for not providing these forms to them, not providing these forms to your employees, and disregarding the necessary filing requirements. You can also be penalized if your forms arrived on time but were incomplete or incorrect.

If your 1095-C is incorrect, not only will you get penalized for the errors, but that could lead to even higher penalties if the IRS decides to use your 1095-C to determine how it will enforce “employer shared responsibility payment” (ESRP) penalties on you. More on ESRPs next.

226-J Letters

Benefits Pro reports that the IRS is currently enforcing what is called “employer shared responsibility payments” (ESRP) penalties against those employers who didn’t meet the Affordable Care Act requirement of offering health coverage to their full-time employees. So if you have 50 or more full-time employees, you still need to offer them medical insurance for 2019 under current Affordable Care Act guidelines, and your ACA compliance for 2018 hinges on whether or not you offered them coverage for this year.

If you don’t offer your full-time employees health insurance, you will receive your IRS penalty in the form of a 226-J letter. The 226-J cites information from the 1095-C you filed for the coverage year in question, and the penalties can be the cost of coverage plus penalties of $2,000/ year per full-time employee, in some instances even including those that elected health coverage from you.

If you find yourself the unlucky owner of a 226-J letter, you have 30 days to respond to the IRS via Form 14764, which the IRS typically encloses with your 226-J. If you think the IRS is erroneous in their claims against your coverage offerings, you can file a 14765 to challenge them.

If you decide to fight the 226-J letter, there is a chance the IRS will accept your explanation and lower your levied penalty to $0 using the 227-K letter.

The Affordable Care Act Still Requires A Benefits Summary Disclosure

It’s no surprise that employees like to shop around for health insurance, especially in this market, and under the ACA as it currently stands, you owe your employees a summary of benefits and coverage to make it easier for them to comparison shop.

Stay ACA compliant: give employees a summary of benefits and coverage
These summaries, dubbed SBCs, need to be provided during an employee’s open enrollment period. SBCs also need to be given to the employee the moment they become eligible for health coverage, or the moment they ask you for an SBC directly. Failure to provide a summary of benefits and coverage can result in a penalty of $1,128 per participant.

Are you stressed about ACA reporting yet? Don’t be! ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed especially to get your 1094 and 1095 forms into the right hands with time to spare. Schedule an appointment with one of our account managers today.

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Monday, August 20, 2018

You Should Expect an Unstable 2019 Health Insurance Market

 Current broker insights project the health insurance market is set to become volatile as higher-income Americans react to increased ACA plan premiums. The Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute reports that federal policy shifts may force many people to abandon the individual health insurance market unless states start protecting their ACA exchanges.

Competition for Cheap Health Insurance

The report, which sought insights from insurance agents and brokers, states that have rising premiums are likely to drive healthier Americans to seek cheap health insurance elsewhere, in short-term health plans, for instance. This exodus is projected to only drive up the rates in the individual market, which in turn could force even more people to start looking at alternatives for their current healthcare insurance.

The brokers are pinpointing higher-income Americans as the ones to leave because that cohort makes too much money to qualify for government subsidies, like the one the ACA provides for those up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

The Healthcare Insurance Microscape

This report looked to six states –– Iowa, New Hampshire, Texas, Mississippi, Georgia, and Utah –– as a crucible of healthcare insurance activity, because these six states have what is deemed “fragile markets,” and higher-than-average premiums.

The report reveals that within health insurance landscapes like the ones in these states, narrow provider networks are leading people to drop ACA plans. Limited plan choices are also a factor projected to lead to health insurance market instability, and so people have been turning to small-group market plans and cheap health insurance with increasingly limited protections. The brokers also said people are considering direct primary care arrangements, which is a contract between patients and their primary care provider.

While it may be easy to write this report off as conjecture intended to seed the health insurance market with panic, bear in mind that this report relies on insights from brokers and insurance agents who are working in the field, directly in contact with Americans struggling to find cheap health insurance and health care plans they can afford. Americans with individual insurance are already struggling, and 2019 does not appear on track to alleviate that.

Consider the Impact To Your Company’s Health Insurance Offerings

As you look ahead to the implications of the current health insurance landscape on your company’s health care options, don’t be afraid to work ahead, too. It is not too soon to think about your ACA reporting. Come January, you’ll need to be focused on how to navigate the volatile 2019 health insurance market––don’t bury yourself unnecessarily in 2018 reporting while you’re already struggling under paperwork for the coming year.

Schedule an appointment with one of our ACAwise account managers today. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to help you with efficient 1094 and 1095 Form distribution, so let us take this off your plate.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Team Building Activities People Will Actually Like

Team Building activities with sticky notes
You can only build so much of a coworker relationship out of water-cooler conversation and meetings, but in order to function its best your team needs to, well, be a team. Team building doesn’t have to make you cringe. It’s designed to do the opposite, and so we’ve rounded up a list of some team building activities for work that will keep the groaning to a minimum.

Team Building on a Budget

If your workplace doesn’t have a team building budget, then lavish rafting trips are kind of out of the question. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t team building activities you can do right in the breakroom.

Team Building Game 1: Identity Crisis

You may have seen variations of the following team building game, where people walk around with index cards bearing the name of a famous person or movie on their back and have to glean clues to what their index card says by going around the room and talking to their coworkers. It doesn’t matter who the last person remaining is, because the objective is to talk to new people and get your team to help each other out.

The twist in this version is that instead of pop culture references, you make the word or phrase written on the index cards something specific to your company: localities served, brands, services rendered, programs offered, etc. Is it a flashy team building exercise? Not necessarily, but it gets your staff talking to one another and eliminates the generation gaps discussing pop culture can sometimes expose.

Game 2: Campfire Stories

Corporate team building activities run the risk of seeming stuffy or too formal. A good way to combat that is by creating an atmosphere that puts people at ease, which “Campfire Stories,” a game we learned from Workamajig, achieves using only a whiteboard and some sticky notes.

Step 1: On the set of sticky notes, write some “trigger words” to start the storytelling session. Things like “work travel” “first day” “most awkward thing you’ve done in the office.”

Step 2: Divide a whiteboard into two sections. Post all sticky notes one section of the whiteboard.

Step 3: Gather your team and make sure they all have access to fresh sticky notes. Ask a participant to pick out one trigger word from the sticky notes and use it to share an experience (say, about his/her first day of work at the company). Shift the chosen sticky note to the other side of the whiteboard as the story is told.

Step 4: As this team member is describing their experience, ask the others to jot down words that remind them of similar work-related stories onto the extra sticky notes. Add these words to the whiteboard.

Step 5: Repeat this process until you have a word wall with interconnected stories.

Team Building Scavenger Hunt

This team building exercise requires a little bit of a budget because there are prizes. Hide a slip of paper (or a couple slips of paper) throughout the office building with either prizes written on each slip, or clues on each slip leading to another slip that ultimately leads to a prize.

If the scavenger hunt is too big of an undertaking, stick to hiding a few slips of paper with prizes written on them. Different levels of difficulty (how well these slips are hidden) dictate the prize. A slip taped to the tissue box might be for a free frozen yogurt, while the slip taped behind the work fridge in the secret storage room might be a $50 gift card.

Corporate team building activities

The team building part comes in by encouraging your team to hunt in groups. Have extra gift cards or coupons on hand to increase the reward accordingly if one of the slips is found by people working as a team.
Not all team building activities have to make people cringe. If you feel like your team could get to know each other better, give any of these team building exercises a go. At the end of the day, they’re your team and we know you’re looking out for them. We can help you look out for them when it comes to the IRS, too. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to help you with efficient 1094 and 1095 distribution. To learn more about ACAwise, schedule an appointment today!

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Monday, August 13, 2018

How To Make The Most Out of an Employee Exit Interview

Losing a good employee, regardless of the circumstances, is never easy. You feel blindsided, caught off-guard, and confused. You’re juggling all of these feelings while trying to determine what could possibly cause them to quit. Conducting an employee exit interview can alleviate some of the confusion. While you may have received a resignation letter from the employee, most employees are hesitant to be transparent about why they have decided to leave the company. However, once an employee has left a company they feel more comfortable sharing insight on their experience now that they have less to lose.

We have gathered some information on how to make the most out of an employee exit interview and hope these resources can benefit you for years to come.

How To Make The Most Out of an Employee Exit Interview

Employee exit interviews can be very beneficial to a company and its management team if conducted and utilized properly. If you have never conducted an exit interview, follow these steps to effectively complete the process.

Scheduling an Exit Interview

1) Have the employee’s supervisor notify the HR department of the resignation. The supervisor should encourage the employee to complete a questionnaire and schedule a time for their exit interview. Relay this information in a kind way, so the employee feels comfortable and heard during the interview process.

2) The HR manager should then provide the employee with the questionnaire and confirm the exit interview. The responses to these questions will be discussed during the interview and should be confidentially placed in a department file.

Once an employee submits their resignation, they are only responsible for completing the questionnaire and conferring with the HR department a preferred time for the exit interview.

Exit Interview Tips for Success

Exit interviews can be conducted in a number of ways. Whether it is through a questionnaire, phone call, or traditional meeting, choose the interview style that would work best for the termed employee and your business. Here a few options to consider:

1) Give the employee room to expand. Exit interviews are less about having answers to every question and more about having quality information to work with. If during the interview the exiting employee has a lot to say about a particular question, allow them to spend a moment until they feel they have explained themselves fully.

2) Call the employee a few days after they exit to learn more about their experience. Phone calls tend to be less intimidating or confrontational due to the termed employee being in their own space.

3) Make the conversation POSITIVE! Ensure the employee that the information shared is confidential and will not be given to their manager.

What To Do After The Interview

Once you have conducted your employee exit interview, review the responses and look for any trends or patterns regarding the business, and compare this exit interviews with others if you can. Take note of what the employee enjoyed and disliked about the company as well as its strengths and weaknesses from their perspective. This process will help you gain a better understanding of the employees’ experience along with great insight on necessary improvements.

While we cannot administer the employee exit interview for you, we can help with another facet of taking care of your employees: your ACA reporting. ACAwise provides full-service ACA reporting designed to help you with efficient 1094 and 1095 distribution. To learn more about ACAwise, schedule an appointment today!

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Monday, July 16, 2018

How to Make the Most Out of Your New Hire

How to Make the Most Out of Your New Hire
The hiring process is a lengthy and tedious journey to say the very least. From the initial meetings to their first day, the application and recruiting process is fraught with peril. There are hundreds of decisions that need to be made that will impact not only your team but your company. Most HR professionals are very well aware of this, and there have been significant improvements in the past decade to streamline the onboarding process. We are collectively doing a much better job as a whole bringing in new team members, but there is always room for growth, so before their first day here is how to make the most out of your new hire. 

How to Make the Most Out of Your New Hire

Before your fresh-faced newbie lands in their cubicle, office, or workstation there is still a bit of work that needs to be done. Many organizations are welcoming new hires into the seams with nifty and new innovative ways. There are always those that suffer from confirmation bias that set up the new hire for failure before they ever walk in the door. This unintentional action will undermine the success of the new hire, repeating the hiring process, and wasted resources.

Change Your Mindset

  • “ The last two hires I brought into this department could not perform their job to our standards; I am sure that Sarah will be the same way.”
  • “Remember Jill who worked in the call center? We gave her a bonus after only six months and then she quit without notice.”
  • “His recommendations could have been better. I will need to keep a very careful eye on his work.”

Have you ever found yourself thinking this after filling a new position? If so you are likely setting both your new hire and yourself up for failure. If you felt the employee could not do the work required you would not have offered the position. Feel confident in your decision and approach the new hire as you would any other employee.

Here are five ways you might be setting yourself up for failure. These will signal to your new hire that you are expecting the worst or poor performance from your new hire.

How to Make the Most Out of Your New Hire
  • Calling the first 30 days a probationary period
  • Small or  single infractions result in a formal disciplinary report
  • Not allowing PTO eligibility until six months of employment 
  • “Proof” of illness or bereavement leave
  • Restricted access to required resources or information

At this point, a few of you might be saying that those types of policies are only there to ensure consistency or serves as financial protection. I am not saying that there are some aspects of these policies that are appropriate for your particular type of business.

However, now might be an excellent opportunity to revisit your current policies, especially if they were implemented more than five years ago.

Are your company’s practices and policies designed to bring out the best in your new hires?

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Monday, July 9, 2018

How to Avoid Feeling Burned Out at Work

How to Avoid Feeling Burned Out at WorkHave you ever felt overwhelmed at work? Intense pressure from your coworkers and/or boss? Feels like no one cares or acknowledges how hard you work? Chances are you have, and I understand where you are coming from because I have been there too. However, when you are going through it, you will feel very alone with this issue. Most people who experience burnout often don’t notice until it is too late. Most will go to great lengths to put on a brave face and remain silent. This is, unfortunately, one reason that by the time it is noticed it has developed into a critical problem. Here is how to avoid feeling burned out at work and what to look for in others. 

How to Avoid Feeling Burned Out at Work

There are more than a few causes for burnout but here are the top three reasons:
  • Political Climate
    • There is no denying that an unstable political climate can raise your stress levels. You find yourself worrying about how new government changes will not only affect the economy but your position at work or benefits. 
  • Social Overwhelm
    • On top of your work and family interactions, you are connected to people all around the world 24/7. This bombardment of information can cause stress and anxiety in your life. Especially if there is an unstable economy or government. 
  • Understaffing
    • This is simply doing more with fewer resources whether it is staff, equipment, or resources. When an organization scales back its workforce, your team's workload will increase at a staggering rate. This leaves your team feeling powerless and undervalued. 

Address The Issues Head on

Once you begin to understand the sources of your stress, immediately take action to limit your intake of negativity. If it is a particular individual or the political climate you need to be aware of the situation. Small doses are fine but know when you need to stay aware and be around people of stories with positive energy.

Create a boundary between you and the source of your stress. You would be surprised how many complain about social media or other sources of stress but never create a barrier. Boundaries are there to help yourself be more comfortable and protect yourself.

How to Avoid Feeling Burned Out at WorkBe open and honest with your higher-ups. It is likely that those in your office are feeling the same way about the lack of resources so a conversation will not be a surprise. Your first step to approaching this situation is to be open and honest. Don’t beat around the bush talking about the weather, simply cut to the heart of your concerns and where you are coming from. If you also come with suggestions, it will make solving the problem more manageable. If your boss does not take your concerns seriously or actively dismisses your concerns it might be time to consider other employment opportunities. No position is worth sacrificing your mental and emotional health.

The Take-Away

Find a company that will value the feeling of its employees and actively tries to prevent burnout. If you are currently looking for a position, be upfront with your interviewer and ask about the turnover, workload, pace, and how issues are handled. You will never get an entirely accurate picture of what you're getting into, but you will be able to pick up some critical clues to guide your decision.

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Monday, July 2, 2018

What Happens After I Receive IRS Letter 226-J?

What Happens After I Receive IRS Letter 226-J?
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) is complicated. The ACA penalty process being initiated by the IRS is no exception. Employers receiving notifications (IRS letter 226-J) must respond within 30 days to avoid further action by the IRS. This year the IRS will begin collecting penalties from businesses that did not comply with the ACA Employer Mandate in 2015. Here is what happens after you receive IRS letter 226-J.

What Happens After I Receive IRS Letter 226-J?

Like I have already stated you will only have 30 days to respond to the IRS. However, depending on whether you agree with the assessment made the IRS you may need more time to review all of your information. If you request additional time within these 30 days, you may be granted an extension.

Strategizing Your Response

As an HR manager or a member of the benefits department, you should not handle this alone. Contact your CFO, owner, or any other internal experts that should be a part of the conversation. Depending on your organization it might be in your best interest to seek external or internal legal counsel.

Understand Your Liability

While your current 226-J letter is about your compliance in 2015, the penalty process will not only be limited to that year or specific payments. Work with your team to ensure you fully understand the scope of payment and penalties you may owe for any additional years.

Review Forms 1094-C and 1095-C

If you are in disagreement with the IRS, it is essential that you review your Form 1094-C and 1095-C. It could be that the inaccuracy was the cause of the incorrect penalty assessment. If you need to correct any information on these forms, do not resubmit an amended version to the IRS. You will need to make these corrections in your response to the IRS.

Respond to IRS Letter 226-J

What Happens After I Receive IRS Letter 226-J?It is critical that you respond to the IRS within 30 days. Responding is especially true if you do not agree with the IRS. You will need to complete Form 14764 to return to the IRS and indicate whether you agree with their assessment. If you agree with the penalties, you will need to include your organization's payment.

If you disagree with the assessment, you will need to explain your discrepancies. You will need to provide extensive information proving your claim as well as specific corrections that need to be made to your previously filed forms. 

Wait For Confirmation by The IRS

Once you have submitted Form 14764, you will receive IRS letter 227. This letter will contain what steps your organization must take next. If you disputed the penalty payment, your letter might request more information or even a new amount. If you disagreed with the penalty, you could then ask for a Pre-Assessment Conference with the IRS Office of Appeals. This, however, must be completed within 30 days of receiving IRS letter 227.

2018 ACA Compliance and Reporting

Are you looking for a full-service ACA compliance and reporting software? Well, look no further! ACAwise is an all-inclusive online software with secure and reliable ACA compliance tracking year round. With our ACA solution, you won’t have to worry about receiving another 226-J letter from the IRS again. Contact our 100% US-based support team for more information.

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Monday, June 25, 2018

What Employers Need to Know About 2018 ACA Compliance

Employer researches changes in the Affordable Care Act for 2018 ACA Compliance This time last year we were all watching anxiously as Washington discussed the possible “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). No matter what side of the debate you were on, the thought of having to start from scratch with a new set of rules was a daunting thought for all HR managers and employers. However, as we currently stand, the ACA is holding steady which means you are now moving forward with planned compliance with current regulations. Here is what employers need to know about 2018 ACA compliance.

What Employers Need to Know About 2018 ACA Compliance

This past year did see the end of the individual mandate. Now individuals will no longer be penalized if they do not carry insurance under the ACA. However, on the other hand, the employer mandate is still holding steady.

The most significant development we have seen this year is employers receiving enforcement notices concerning 2016 ACA compliance (IRS letter 226J). Approximately 30,000 notices have already been sent out to employers in 2018.

Employers and HR manager get together to plan 2018 ACA compliance for the employer mandate Congress is still currently considering a bipartisan bill that would make several small technical modifications to the ACA. The Commonsense Reporting Act (H.R. 3919 and S.1908) which was proposed this year would ease some of the regulatory burdens on applicable businesses. It would help to reduce cases where new employees get an individual ACA subsidy after being added to the business’s healthcare plan. This would reduce the costs for both the employees and the employer.

Currently, employers and HR should continue to keep a close eye on regulation changes if they offer wellness benefits to employees. Even if the ACA does not change regulations on wellness plans are supposed to be updated. However, filing issues for regulatory boards have delayed the updates.

2018 ACA Compliance and Reporting

ACAwise is an all-inclusive online software with secure and reliable ACA compliance tracking year round. Simply upload your employee information each day to ensure your full-time employees are receiving the ACA required minimum coverage. From your dashboard, you can see compliance tracking the form of reports like Eligibility & Affordability, Monitoring & Forecasting Compliance, and even Penalty Calculations.

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Monday, June 18, 2018

6 Powerful HR Tips to Unlock Employee Potential This Summer

Summer time in the office requires special tips and tricks to keep your team focus while it is beautiful out
Summer is here, the change of season brings several human resource related challenges unique to this time of year. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and your staff is sitting quietly in their cubicle. To help keep your employees invested in their work here are six powerful tips to unlock summer management.

6 Powerful HR Tips to Unlock Employee Potential This Summer

1. Working on A Summer Day

Picture this: It is a beautiful summer day, but you and your staff are inside working hard to grow the business and revenue. As the days get longer, you will find yourself losing focus, and this can also be said for your staff. If you find your team lacks motivation here are a few ways you can help.

  • Encourage your staff to take vacations
    • Studies show that when your employees take a vacation, they return rejuvenated and refocused.
  • Be Flexible
    • Hold a standing meeting, go outside for a walk, or let your staff work outside for an hour. Or if possible let your team leave early on Friday to start the weekend.
  • Update Goals
    • Usually, goal setting is done at the beginning of the year, but the summer is the perfect time to set new challenges for you and your staff members.

2. Summer Dress Code

As temperatures climb into the 90s and even 100s, it might be time to update your dress code. While your business might have a more lenient dress code, it is still worth updating the code, so there are no awkward situations.

The dress code needs to reflect the season while remaining comfortable and business appropriate.

3. Summer Internships

If you experience an increase in business during the summer months hiring an intern is the perfect solution. However, before you bring on a student, you should be aware of the Department of Labor (DOL) laws that pertain to payment procedures.

Use the primary beneficiary test to determine if your intern is an employee or not.

4. Summer Health Risks

Manufactures, landscapers, and any employee that has employees working in high temperatures need to be extremely mindful.

If your employees are exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time, there could be health risks and possible endangerment.

While there are no specific standards for working in a hot environment, you should still recognize hazards in the work environment.

5. Scheduling During Summer

No matter your business type we can all agree that summer is a time of weird and busy schedules. From baseball games, summer camp, vacation, and everything that goes along with it your employees need flexibility. However, this should not affect the business, and you must do everything possible to make it as smooth as possible.

An easy way to keep your shift schedules and time off requests inline is to ask your staff to request off at least two weeks in advance. Also, have the request processed by their manager first before it comes to you. They work close to the individual and will be able to make an informed discussion.

6. Get Organized

One of the most vital things you can do for your business this season is to get or remain organized. I know that tax season 2019 seems a long way out, but in reality, with so many employees it is good to be prepared. In addition to payroll related tax information, you will also need to maintain ACA compliance and health care coverage details. Thankfully ACAwise offers an all-inclusive online software with secure and reliable ACA compliance tracking year round.

Simply upload your employee information, health insurance plan(s) details and our program will automatically analyze and track your information each day to ensure your full-time employees (or full-time equivalent employees) are receiving the ACA required minimum coverage. From your dashboard, you can see compliance tracking in the form of reports like Eligibility & Affordability, Monitoring & Forecasting Compliance, and even Penalty Calculations.

Since all of your information is already in our system at the end of the year you can e-file with the IRS in just a matter of minutes. If you are interested in adding ACA compliance tracking to your business please contact our US-based support team.

We hope these tips will help you to boost your summer management. Try them out to find what works best for you and your business. What other strategies do you use during the summer? Let us know in the comment section below! And sign-up for your free ACA demo today!

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Monday, June 11, 2018

What Can HR Do With Workplace Suicide on The Rise?

What Can HR Do With Workplace Suicide on The Rise?Suicide. It is an unbelievably sad and tragic event that has impacted hundreds of thousands of friends, families, and colleagues across the United States. In the wake of yet another sobering loss, many are concerned. As the 10th leading cause of death in the US, many of you might be asking yourself, “What can HR do with workplace suicide on the rise?”

What Can HR Do With Workplace Suicide on The Rise?

This rise in suicides is found across all sexes, racial, and ethnic groups. However, the most significant spike is in middle-aged adults between 45 and 64 years old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated in a recent study that many factors besides mental illness could trigger suicide.

Suicide does not merely affect those closest to the individual, but it also affects their coworkers and the work environment. When a suicide happens in the workplace, the impact can be unimaginable and can cause severe distress for the organization as a whole.

Suicide in the Workplace

As we have previously stated, suicide rates overall are rising but there is also a disturbing amount of those committed in the workplace. In the US between 2003-2010 more than 1,700 individuals killed themselves while at work.
It has happened at a Bank of America Corporation call center in New Mexico, Apple Inc’s Cupertino Califonia headquarters, and Ford Motors plant outside of Detroit. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of suicides at work was 291 in 2016.

Education is Essential

No matter the size or business of your organization it is vital to educate yourself and your employees on the warning signs. If you feel that an employee could be a risk to themselves, you should talk to them with compassion. It is typically difficult to resist talking to someone when they are genuine and compassionate. 

However, I am not a psychologist, and I encourage you to add a suicide prevention plan in your OnBoarding package. Also an annual or biannual class for your employees will help prepare them and teach them more about the warning signs.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

What You Need to Know About Exempt Employees

When you welcome a new team member on you may see two words floating around: Tax exempt and nonexempt. Isn’t exempt just another word for “excused?” If so, what are they excused from? In this HR guide to understanding exempt employees, we will clarify what these terms mean.

So what does exempt mean? That is an excellent question with a reasonably simple answer. Your new employee is excused from the rules in the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA. So that means they might not be entitled to minimum wage or other protections most employees receive.

What You Need to Know About Exempt Employees

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act is a set of rules and regulations about how individuals should be treated in a work environment. These rules include minimum wage requirements, leave, overtime, record-keeping, and other protections. Regarding classification, the FLSA divides employees into two sectors: exempt and nonexempt. The federal government does this to separate those whom the laws apply.

What Does it Mean to be Exempt?

These types of employees are exempt or not covered by Fair Labor Standards Act rules. Because they are salary and have specific responsibilities, they do not receive overtime and may be ineligible for minimum wage standards.

However, one dangerous misconception is that all salaried employees are automatically classified as exempt. This is not true and assuming this could cost your business severe federal penalties.

Exempt status is linked to the individuals’ work duties, salary and their independence in the work environment. They must meet all of the following conditions to classify as exempt, as outlined by the Department of Labor.

So what is the minimum salary for exempt employees 2018:

Salary Level: Exempt employees are paid at least $55 per week or $23,660 per year.

Salary Base: Your employee's salary is concrete and will not change as a result of performance or sales.

Duties: Employees must be in one of the following roles: Administration, computer/systems, executive level, outside sales, or professional. Your employee does not have to possess one of the titles but rather the duties of the position influence their status.

Simplify Your ACA Compliance

Once you check that task off your agenda, you can move on to the million other tasks begging for your attention. Want a head start on your ACA compliance? Sign-up for your free ACAwise demo, today!

ACAwise is an all-in-one ACA reporting software designed to track and monitor your ACA compliance throughout the year. Then when it is time to e-file we will create Form 1095 and 1094 on your behalf! You will then review your forms and we will securely e-file directly with the IRS. We will even mail your recipient copies from our South Carolina based office the next business day.

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